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25 September 2018

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Dating Games

Author: Evan Haddad

Jan/Feb 2016
Social Issues
Page 52   ( 8 pages)

Summary: How are busy, young Russians coping in the era of Tinder and online dating? Our reporter finds it to be largely a world of scammers and sketchy apps.


Meet Zhenya: she’s 29, tall, blonde, earns over $5,000 a month, has a flat in the center of Moscow, a house in the suburbs, a prestigious car, and she owns a law firm. She doesn’t have kids; she’s never been married. Like her? If you’re an uspeshny muzhchina (successful man) you can date her, maybe marry her. She’s single and looking for a husband.

That’s Zhenya’s online dating profile on Privet, Russia’s glitchy version of the popular mobile matchmaking app, Tinder. But if you want to talk to Zhenya, you have to first get through Andrei – a representative of a dating agency paid to post her profile, sort through the neuspeshny, and get her paired up with the best men. Andrei and his agency are not alone. Since Privet emerged in 2014, small Moscow-based operations have been taking advantage of the free app, representing busy men and women in the market for serious relationships, family creation, and even sponsorship. These services have something in common: they’re making money on free acquaintance platforms like Privet, and some of their clients are willing to pay good money – some upwards of $3,000.

If you’re matched with Zhenya, here’s what happens next.

Andrei messages you on Privet. He asks for your telephone number to organize a date, assuring you that it’s all completely free. Inside of an hour, he calls twice. The first is for a brief pre-date screening where he pries personal information out of you: about your job, your income, whether you own a car or a flat, are a smoker, or have ever been married. If you pass, you get the second call; it’s a confirmation of the date. According to Andrei, Zhenya will be wearing a blue dress at a table in a cafe next to the Oktyabrskaya metro station on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.

But by the end of the day, her profile on Privet has disappeared; Andrei doesn’t answer the phone. If you venture out to the cafe on Tuesday, you’ll find yourself sitting alone, wondering whether the beautiful Zhenya ever existed at all.

Irina Kuznetsova, CEO of Privet, says she and the team at the Privet office in St. Petersburg know what’s going on.

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